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June 9, 2006

Fantasy Focus

Down the Line

by Erik Siegrist

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Coming into 2006, perhaps the most risky elite pick in fantasy baseball was Alfonso Soriano. Much was made of his 2005 home/road splits (1011 OPS at home in Texas, 639 away) and the fact that he was moving from a great hitter's park in Ameriquest Field to a great pitcher's park in RFK Stadium. Jose Guillen's own initial struggles with RFK (just three home runs there last year, as opposed to 21 on the road) were cited as corroborating evidence. In addition, Nationals GM Jim Bowden mentioned his immediate intention to move Soriano off of the keystone and out to left field, a decision that clearly displeased the second baseman. Add to that an arbitration battle the player lost, and the door was opened for a potentially sulky Soriano to underperform even beyond the unfavorable park factors as he tried to force another trade. PECOTA's median projection was a .258/.311/.465 line with 24 home runs; ours at window._ttf = window._ttf || []; _ttf.push({ pid : 53804 ,lang : "en" ,slot : '.contentPad .article > p' ,format : "inread" ,minSlot : 5 ,components : { skip: {delay : 0}} ,css : "margin: 0px auto 20px; max-width: 600px!important;" }); (function (d) { var js, s = d.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; js = d.createElement('script'); js.async = true; js.src = '//cdn.teads.tv/media/format.js'; s.parentNode.insertBefore(js, s); })(window.document); I say almost, because there is one hitter who has done as well in RFK as Soriano is doing now, albeit in an even tinier handful of plate appearances-Andruw Jones has cranked five home runs in just 37 at bats in Washington over the last eight months of regular season baseball. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jones profiles as a very similar hitter to Soriano at the plate. Both are right-handed flyball pull hitters, and it's that ability to pull the ball down the line, rather than into RFK's spacious gaps and towards its distant center field fence, that might just be the key to their performances, and their power in a park that is otherwise a power killer.

From both a fantasy and a sabermetric perspective, Soriano's surprising numbers hint at new areas of inquiry, and suggest what types of batters Jim Bowden should be looking for in a deal when he picks up the phone. Just as we've just begun to consider what a pitcher's groundball/flyball ratio can tell us, so too could a hitter's pull tendency help provide a more accurate portrait of their potential. At the very least it suggests new ways to look at park effects, such as whether a stadium is pull-friendly, or more or less rewarding for flyball hitters.

Just because a thing wasn't predicted, doesn't mean it wasn't predictable. It simply means we need to refine the tools at our disposal.

Erik Siegrist is a senior beat writer for RotoWire, covering the Marlins and Nationals. He can be reached here.

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Prospectus Notebook: I... (06/09)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Change ... (06/06)
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